My mind is still reeling from the magical moments we shared on the latest scubaversity trip, September 2008 to Inhambane, Mozambique. The experience accentuated by the long delay since my last ocean diving in April this year. That’s just too long, isn't it?
Leaving at midnight, well almost, on the luxury coach complete with onboard loo and movies, we travelled the distance in a respectable and cheerful 15 hours. The cost savings, party mood (thanks for those yummy treats Mariana), and promise of adventures made short work of this stretch of our trip, and we arrived to beach sands and palm trees in the middle of the Mozambican coastline before sunset.
A number of 4x4 vehicles were waiting to take us the last few kilometres to Jeff’s Palm Resort where we were greeted by the friendly and professional staff. After settling into spacious, well equipped beach chalets and a welcome shower we enjoyed a hearty supper receiving a briefing of what was in store for us during our stay. We are told of the Sony Submerge 2008 Photo Shootout Competition (Click here to see the final club entries) and that all are invited and encouraged to join in the fun. Sony even made a number of cameras available to participants who did not have their own underwater camera. They entered the novice category of the competition.Though I am not a real fan of competitions as such, I realised the opportunity to share one of my personal passions with my diving friends would be very rewarding. And so it was! We prepped our cameras with care, and were soon of to bed.
After a most excellent nights sleep, we were kitting up in the well laid out area where the 4x4's whisked our kit and us the few hundred meters down to the boat. Launching from the bay with flat seas we were able to cover the few kilometres to the dive site in around 15 minutes. We were headed for the much spoken of Manta reef and this would be my first time on this particular reef. One backward roll later I was in my favourite part of the world, and staring at the big blue and its treasures. Manta reef has an abundance of life rivalled by few places I have been lucky enough to dive at. Huge schools of snappers and soldiers are common in this area. A Malabar Grouper hung lazily next to a pinnacle. As we were thoroughly briefed by Tibea (our dive leader) on the lay out of the reef we followed the route passing the cleaner stations, catching glimpses of at least one giant Manta ray as we went along.
The second dive was lead by Dennis who took us to Devil’s Peak and proceeded to lead a great Macro dive, pointing out decorative crabs, nudibranchs galore, impressing us all with his knowledge of the reef and relaxed manner.
Over supper the buzz in the air indicates the growing excitement as divers share stories of the day, and photos.
On day two we awake to yet another beautiful sunny day. A bad patch of viz drifted in from the south and affecting the shallower reefs south of Jeff’s quite badly. Combined with significant surge, I decided to switch off my camera and rather just go with the flow rather than risking injury to the reef life, myself or my camera. I was rewarded by sharing a cave with a baby free swimming Marble Electric Ray. I felt sorry for the little ray as it clearly was being rolled around by the surge as well, perhaps uncovered by this underwater wind as it usually hides below the sand. On the other hand I didn’t want Sparky to decide I was a threat, and give me a jolt, so I left him to fend for himself as is the way with nature. In a way he reminded me of the baby turtle in Finding Nemo riding the EAC (East Austrlian current).
I decided to give the second dive a skip opting for an afternoon on the beach watching the impressive skills of the kite surfers. Others, including Veletia, Helena, Claudia went for a wonderful three and a half hour horse ride on the beach. It occurred to me how privileged we are …
The sea never ceases to amaze me as it did again this day when other dive groups coming from Manta Reef couldn’t stop raving about the great dive and diving conditions they had on this very same day when Squirt and I came face to face in the cave. It reminded me how quickly conditions can change in the ocean for better or for worse.
That night over supper we had a quiz that was hosted by Jeff’s Palm resort where Scubaversity and Prestige dive schools competed in good spirits along with Fiona and Pieter Driesel from Submerge. Lucky for us we’ve been on lots of dive trips and seen plenty of movies in the backs of cars on the way to Soddies or Da Ora and therefore did very well. I must admit I didn’t know the answer to most of the questions, but enjoyed the fun nonetheless.
Day three brought with it beautiful diving conditions, and we were soon ready to drop onto Manta Reef for our second time. The water clear we dropped the 22 odd meters to the bottom, and were almost immediately rewarded by a Boeing–like Manta ray gliding right overhead. I turned and heading towards me a flock of devil rays came flying by. Admittedly my regulator almost fell out at this point.
After some very interesting wall sections of the reef we arrived at the third cleaner station, which I call Heathrow Station from now on, as we were surrounded by numerous giant Manta rays swooping in majestic patterns around us. We spent the shortest twenty minutes of my life with them watching them seemingly dance for us.
The last dive for the trip we went to Pow, which is Portuguese for “bread”, and thoroughly enjoyed the macro diving experience in clear, quiet waters.
The diving was done, but the Competition was still in need of being wrapped up. In true Scubaversity form we huddled at HQ (Colwin’s chalet) to pour over the laptops with drinks in hand trying to figure out which pics, what categories, how to name them and very importantly what are you allowed to do to electronically enhance your picture. With a whole bunch of us submitting it was stacks of fun, and very exciting. Time was running out though as the bus was leaving, but we managed in the end to submit photos from the following Scubaversity (Shutterbug) photographers:
If you could not make the previous trip, then all I can say is I hope you can make the next one!
Thank you Scubaversity and Jeff’s Palm (and Sony, Submerge, the judges and especially Colin) for putting together this most magnificent experience!
See you next time!
Article and photos by René C. Schutte